Microsoft’s Fall answer to the Summer of Arcade, deemed the “Game Feast” has officially launched. And this week’s release makes me pretty excited, despite my being a little backed up on games at the moment; from Spider-man Shattered Dimensions to DeathSpank 2, and I’m just a small bit embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t beaten Halo: Reach’s campaign mode. I’m a terrible geek, I know. Tell that to my professors, maybe it’ll stop them from conspiratorially announcing that I have a test for each class all in the same week. They’re all in on it, I know it.
But, I digress, this week’s XBLA Game Feast release is called Comic Jumper. I know all you good little video game news addicts know everything about it already. From the four completely different comic themed levels (Modern, Fantasy, Silver Age and Manga) to the hilarious banter between Captain Smiley and his ever present yet disturbingly attached sidekick, Star. I’m not going to talk about that (despite how much I really really want to), I’m going to tell you two simple reasons why it’s going to be grade-A fun, based on the developer’s, Twisted Pixel, last two forays into the world of XBLA.
First we had The Maw. Released in January of 2009, it was a puzzle-platformer of the most simple kind. You controlled a little blue alien guy named Frank, who, through a spaceship crash, came into possession of The Maw – an at-first little purple blob with one eye and numerous razor-sharp teeth. Each level presented you with a series of puzzles that had to be solved using Maw’s insatiable appetite. And, very much like that little pink ball named Kirby, Maw could gain a power from whatever he ate. Eat a flaming lizard and he could breathe fire, devour a helium filled worm and he could hover for a couple of seconds.
Each level presented a new and interesting local life form for Maw to dine on and I found myself in awe of his growth from level to level (i guess he had no metabolism, because anything he ate caused him to grow, to the point of becoming planet sized at the end of the game.) So that adorable little purple blob you start out with isn’t so tiny by the end of the game. It was fun, pretty addicting (I couldn’t stop playing until I completed every level 100%, including finding small pink aliens and having to eat every single enemy you pass), and pretty endearing. Frank’s call of “MAAAWWWWW” when they got too far away from each other always made me a little sad. If there was a hug button like in A Boy and His Blob, I would have lost it.
It was also supported by three DLC packs, the first two were completely all-new levels, but the third was a little odd. Placing Frank on a speeding motorcycle, it turned the game into a top down shooter; while still fun, it was a tad bit hard if my memory serves me right, and just didn’t feel like The Maw. That would be my one and only complaint about this game. And considering it was barely a 2 hour DLC pack, it’s almost petty of me to mention it.
Next up from the genius that is Twisted Pixel, we got ‘Splosion Man. Released mere months after The Maw, in July of 2009, it became a big hit with the XBLA community; but then again what game with four player co-op don’t people love? If The Maw had simple controls, then ‘Splosion Man’s could be described as toddler-ified (which is totally a word). You run with the joystick, and ‘splode (read: jump) with any face button. That’s it. Run and jump. Sound easy, huh. Oh how naive we all were thinking that.
The single player campaign never became impossible for me, per se (although some of those bosses made me consider introducing my Xbox to the business end of a chainsaw) but the multi-player is a true test of friendship. Throw in another player and it’s a huge game changer, with branching paths, timed button presses, and having to strategically ‘splode off one another. It’s downright stressful, but still dangerously fun. Add another two players, and you are just asking for it. I think my friends and I maybe completed two or three levels total with four players and then gave up.
I’m not saying the game didn’t need four player co-op (I give major props to the fact that each level is changed immediately when a new player is thrown in) I just feel like I can respect the fact that someone completed the game with three friends, but know I will never do it myself. Admittedly, this toughness is probably the very reason it did so well amongst gamers. If there’s anything we agree on its two things: one – we like a challenging game every now and then to obsess over and prove to it, the non-sentient digital pixels, that we can beat it; and two – having a reason to yell obscenities at our friends is always a plus.
Comic Jumper: The Adventures of Captain Smiley releases this Wednesday, October 6th, on XBLA. If nothing else, download the demo when it comes out just to give it a shot. I also highly advise giving these two other games a chance before Comic Jumper comes out; they’re each original and fresh and, though it would give my Vocabulary Development teacher a mini-stroke to hear me say, pretty awesome.